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Peeping Tom

Peeping Tom

By Patrick Samuel • November 20th, 2012
Static Mass Rating: 4/5
20th Century Fox

Original release: May 16th, 1960
Running time: 101 minutes

Director: Michael Powell
Writer: Leo Marks

Cast: Karlheinz Böhm, Moira Shearer, Anna Massey, Maxine Audley

Peeping Tom

Did you ever have the feeling you were being watched? It’s unnerving, even if you aren’t actually being watched. Maybe it’s on the way home, along a dark path or through an alley. Wherever it is, it’s not a nice feeling and more often than not, it’s just our mind playing tricks on us. There’s no one really there.

However, what if there was someone there and not just looking through your window, but actually filming you? What kind of perverse fantasies might you unwillingly be cast in? Peeping Tom was one of the most controversial films ever made in Britain, but today it’s hailed as a masterpiece in psychological terror.

The film stars Karlheinz Böhm as Mark Lewis, a mild-mannered young man who works by day as a focus-puller in a film studio and photographer for a seedy Soho newsagent. At night he walks the streets of London with his camera looking for victims to fulfil his obsession – filming the face of fear, moments before death.

The first victim we see is a prostitute. As Mark advances toward her with his camera hidden inside his coat, we see from the camera’s point of view and watch as he follows her into the house. As she settles down on the bed, she sees something and begins to panic, her face is contorted in a scream and we realise we’re watching his footage with him in his den at home.

Although dubbed “the British Psycho”, Peeping Tom was released a few months prior to Hitchcock’s Psycho but it performed terribly and essentially ruined Powell’s career. By the 1970’s though it picked up a cult following which included Martin Scorsese who has always talked very favourably about it, along with Fellini’s ,

“I have always felt that Peeping Tom and 8½ say everything that can be said about filmmaking, about the process of dealing with film, the objectivity and subjectivity of it and the confusion between the two. 8½ captures the glamour and enjoyment of filmmaking, while Peeping Tom shows the aggression of it, how the camera violates… From studying them you can discover everything about people who make films, or at least people who express themselves through films.” ~ Martin Scorsese

Peeping Tom

This is certainly true about Peeping Tom. There’s much of Powell in the movie, not just in terms of his ideas and creativity in making the film, but also physically. The cameras shown in Mark’s room include Powell’s very first camera, a hand operated Eyemo, made by Bell which he won in a competition.

The director also makes a cameo appearance, playing Mark’s father, Prof. A.N. Lewis, who is seen in an old home movie. Powell also cast his real-life son, Columba Powell, as little Mark and his wife Frankie Reidy plays the lifeless mother lying on the bed in another one of Mark’s home movies.

It’s a peculiar movie. One which invites us to share Mark’s fetish of voyeurism as he constantly searches for that “kick” which escapes him in his everyday life.

It has a dirty feel to it with its hues of red; it’s almost intoxicating to look at and we can’t help but be drawn into his world. It’s fascinating the way it works, at first we’re repelled by the idea of what he’s doing but by the end, we too are voyeurs searching for our own kicks.

Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is an emerging artist with a philosophy degree, working primarily with pastels and graphite pencils, but he also enjoys experimenting with water colours, acrylics, glass and oil paints.

Being on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is stimulated by bold, contrasting colours, intricate details, multiple textures, and varying shades of light and dark. Patrick's work extends to sound and video, and when not drawing or painting, he can be found working on projects he shares online with his followers.

Patrick returned to drawing and painting after a prolonged break in December 2016 as part of his daily art therapy, and is now making the transition to being a full-time artist. As a spokesperson for autism awareness, he also gives talks and presentations on the benefits of creative therapy.

Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and science fiction, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

Patrick Samuel ¦ Asperger Artist

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